Uh... Noobie with a Tree Tutorial?

Discussion in 'The Academy' started by Gary S., Jan 6, 2006.

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  1. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    Well, here goes a rank beginner and his method of making trees:

    1. Go out and cut some limbs. I get mine from my yard and from work. I try to be particular, look for small limbs that have a forking structure that resembles a full size tree. If you can't find limbs that have a nice three dimensional forking structure, that is okay. We can add some other smaller limbs to the "tree" to fill it out... so you will also need some extra limbs for this. Certain species lend themselves well, others don't. Scout around your area to discover what works and what doesn't. Also, some of the species are more fragile than others. You'll figure it out. Trial and error.

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  2. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    2. Here are the basic tools you'll need for making the trunks:

    diagnol cutters or wire cutters
    pin vise and bits
    exacto knife
    paint brush
    board with holes drilled to hold trees
    white glue
    paint brush
    paint (I use railroad tie brown)

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  3. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    3. Trim the limbs into miniature size trees appropriate to your scale. This will be done by "feel". Do whatever seems right. After you do a few, you'll get the hang of it and you'll figure out what looks right. I think there is a tendency to make the trees smaller than they could be. Of course, we need to have trees of all different sizes. My tallest trees are probably around 50 scale feet tall.

    At this point, preservation is a question. The trunks could be sprayed with a matte finish or dullcote or some other stuff that might preserve them. So far, I am just hoping the hair spray we will use as glue later on will act as a varnish to preserve the twigs. I'm open to suggestion on this one.

    Here is a pic of a bunch of "tree trunks" ready for processing.

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  4. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    4. Have an assortment of small twigs handy too. These will be used to fill out the tree trunks to make them more like real trees. You will need some straight ones, but little tiny forked twigs are good too.

    Around here, we don't have too many species that have a nice three dimensional forking structure on the small branches. I hear that sagebrush is really good, but we have none around here.

    Most of our species fork in only two dimensions. We'll just have to do a little more work then.

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  5. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    5. Here is a typical tree trunk with only four limbs forking in only two dimensions. We trimmed it to a pleasing overall size. This is the one we will use in the tutorial.

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  6. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    6. Next we will use the pin vise to drill a hole in the trunk so we can add another limb. Use a drill bit that is quite a bit smaller than the trunk itself so not to compromise it too much. Wiggle the bit around a bit to create a tapered hole, but be careful not to break the teeny tiny bit (oops). Drill the hole all the way through the trunk.

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  7. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    7. Pick out a small twig and trim the end so it will fit in the hole. Sometimes use straight limbs, sometimes use limbs with forks. I tend to use forked twigs for the most part, just to provide more limb structure with the least amount of drilled holes.

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  8. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    8. Add some white glue to the hole.

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  9. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    9. Put the limb in the hole.

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  10. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    10. Drill more holes to add more limbs to fill the tree out. Work your way from the bottom up to the top, adding more limbs. If you are lucky and have species with good forking characteristics, you may not have to add any limbs at all, sometimes maybe only one or two. In this case, we will add 5 extra limbs to get a good three dimensional structure.

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  11. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    11. Trim the limbs to the desired length, whatever feels right, whatever gives the shape you are looking for. You can actually cut the limbs a tad shorter than you would think, because later we will add poly-fiber to each limb and this will make them seem longer.

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  12. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    12. Here is the tree trunk with five extra limbs added. The flash on this camera might make these pictures seem a little bright, or there may be some reflections.

    Anyway, this is looking pretty respectable. Again, we may consider spraying the whole thing down with some kind of preservative.

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  13. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    13. The ends of the limbs where we cut them off will be very noticeable. Paint them with some brown paint, also paint around the holes we drilled, cover up any light spots that will stand out like sore thumbs.

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  14. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    Okay, at this point I am going to take a break. Out here in the country, we are stuck with dial-up and it is excruciatingly slow. Plus, my daughter, whose hands appear in some of the photos above, is running me off the computer for a bit. Will be back shortly to finish the tutorial.
  15. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    I'm back.

    Before we add the poly-fiber, there are a couple of other limb techniques we can use, primarily for tree trunks that have limbs that are a tad too big.

    One thing we can do is cut it off fairly short, then drill a hole in the center and add a smaller forked twig to it. Then the larger part of the branch can be tapered down, or it can be filled with putty or JB Weld or something for a smoother taper.

    This technique works well for tree tops like in the photo... still needs some carving or some putty.

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  16. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    Another limb technique for the ones that are just too fat is to split them, then bend them into two limbs. I have been using the diagnol cutters to split them, alternatively you could use a knife, but be careful. After the limb is split in two, carve the profiles of the two new limbs into round shapes. I put a little white glue in the newly created fork to help hold the limbs in place. Some epoxy would work well too.

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  17. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    One more way to deal with those husky limbs is to just shave the diameter down to something smaller.

    Of course, with each of these techniques, we need to paint the exposed inner part of the wood.

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  18. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    Time to get back to that tree we were working on. Next part of the process is to add poly-fiber. You should be able to find this at the LHS, or on-line. Now, in my opinion, it is critical that you get the black poly-fiber, not the green stuff. The black poly-fiber looks tremendously better than the green, it provides way more depth to the tree and is much more realistic. My first three or four trees were done with green... after that, I strictly use black, and would not even consider using green for trees.

    Starting at the bottom, we will add poly-fiber one limb at a time. Yes, it is time consuming to do it a limb at a time, but it will give a much better looking tree than if you just gob it on.

    14. Put some glue on one of the lower limbs.

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  19. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    15. Tear off a small piece of poly-fiber...

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  20. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

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    16. Place the poly-fiber on the limb by kind of stabbing the limb through it. Make sure it gets into the glue, maybe even twirl the fiber a bit. You want it to be glued to the limb so it won't fall off when we start adding leaves. Spread the poly-fiber out, all nice and fluffy, make it thin so the tree has a nice transparent look to it.

    For longer limbs, it is better to use two seperate pieces of fiber on the limb. Make a small ball, stab it onto the limb and push it close to the trunk. Then spread it out into a fluffy ball. Then take another piece of fiber and stab it onto the end of the branch. Spread this one out too.

    It is tempting to make the poly-fiber too thick at this point. But adding the leaves is what is going to add the thickness... we still want to be able to see through the tree to a certain extent though. So don't make the fiber too thick!

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